Just a year ago on these actual pages I was lamenting my desire to build the perfect bike for Grinduro and while standing at the lunch stop in Taylorsville, California at this years Grinduro it is clear I was not the only one.
The biggest change at this gravel/adventure/road/everything ride/race/ramble in the Gold Country north of the San Francisco Bay Area, actually north of Chico, was the number of bicycles built specifically for conditions experienced in these them-there hills.
There were “gravel” bicycles from the big players, including Trek, Cannondale, Felt, Open, Specialized and Giant. There were custom builders also weighing in on the genre, including bicycle from Caletti, Rock Lobster, SyCip, Speedvagen, Blue Collar Bicycle and many more.
The wheelbases are long, the tires are big, and I mean really big, brakes, for the most part, are disk and rear cogs are massive.
Last year it was surprising to see someone aboard a properly and purposely built gravel bike, but this year it was more odd to find someone riding a full-suspension mountain bike or a cyclocross bike. They were there, but their herd is getting much thinner and thinner.
And this is where the story really begins.
The procurement of a proper whip.
Since my day job includes riding Pinarellos, it only seemed wise to start there. And I was lucky enough to land a “demo” Pinarello GAN GRS Disk from the lovely crew at Pinarello USA.
After a couple of shakeout rides, I decided I was going to need to swap a couple of items in order to feel more confident in my second attempt at this ridiculous, yet rewarding, shindig.
So I ordered myself the biggest cassette Shimano will let you pair with their Ultegra 2x setup, an 11×34. This would enable me to get a 34-34 as my easiest gear. A crucial situation.
I then set about testing the premise this bicycle was going to make my day in the mountains as pleasant as humanly possible.
This Pinarello rips on the descents, is admirably fast and functional on the road and handled the singletrack with aplomb.
If I had my druthers, I would probably have put on even bigger rubber and more gears, but all things considered, I was superstoked.
Fast forward to the night before Grinduro and I’m sitting in my room at the straight-from-an-80s-movie Ranchito Motel in lovely Quincy, California, sipping a beer, watching Ted stuff his jersey pockets with maple syrup and brushing my teeth at an actual sink.
If you remember correctly, my whippy fast and delightful unprepared companion from last year’s Grinduro, Ted King, and I slept in a tent at the fairgrounds and thoroughly froze our asses off. So in a moment of pure wonder, we decided to get a couple of hotel rooms, with hot running water and a lock on the door. And other than marrying my wife and moving to California, this will stand as one of the greatest decision I have ever made.
In the great battle of tent vs. motel, motel wins hands down. At least in regards to fairground camping.
Anyway, I am pulling together my kit and essentials for the next day, while one of my riding companions in the room next door is dialing in his very own Pinarello gravel bike. He was complaining of a noise in the seatpost, so he was adding a touch of lube and double checking the seat binder bolt.
And then I hear it.
That gut-wrenching sound.
The sound of someone’s day going horribly wrong.
The sound of a broken seatpost bolt reverberating through the innards of a carbon fiber frame.
The sound of Grinduro heartbreak.
Ok, so here’s the thing. I’m not really a nice guy.
But I was born in the midwest and with that comes certain obligations.
And so when push-came-to-shove, I gave up my seatpost bolt so my traveling companion, dare I say, my friend, could ride this event for the very first time.
So having cannibalized my beautiful steed, and in the process ending my chances of glory, off to bed I went.
So instead of kitting up the next morning, I pull on some jeans and spend the next day hopscotching all over the course, cleaning rider’s filthy sunglasses, shouting support and eavesdropping on riders.
There were distinctly three categories of riders on the road.
First, those looking for glory.
Second, those claiming they were just here to enjoy themselves.
Finally, those who were just hoping to survive. With the course being 60 plus miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, no matter your fitness it is a legitimately difficult day in the saddle.
As luck (and hard work) would have it my roommate, the rider formerly known as the King of Gravel, Ted King, took first place overall.
This changed our post ride party into a fest and made it a whole lot more fun: the band sounded sweeter, the beer tasted better and the pork rinds were all the more delicious.
The one thing I think we can all count is there will be a Grinduro next, there will be more and more race specific gear and race tactics will play a bigger and bigger part in the outcome of the podium.
And just when I think I have my “which whip?” issues all ironed out, it turns out Ted King, won Grinduro aboard Cannondale’s new mountain bike, The F-Si. I mean come on, what the what? And we’re pretty sure women’s winner, Lindsay Dwyer, was aboard her Trek mountain bike. Let the search and handwringing continue.